from Early Recollections of Newport and Cocke County by W. J. McSween
We now approach the organization of the first religious society that ever existed in Cocke county [TN], and the erection
of the first meeting house. In the latter part of the year 1785, and in the spring of 1786, the Big Pigeon settlement was visited
by Jonathan Mulkey and William Reno, Primitive Baptist preachers,
and their labor resulted in the election of William Whitson
[Jr.] and Abraham McKay [son of Moses MacKay] (now called McCoy), as a committee to meet with the association held at Kendrick's Creek,
(Sullivan county) in the year 1786, and petitioned for permission and the assistance of two ministers to establish a Primitive Baptist
Accordingly on the 6th day of December, 1787, the Rev. (Elder) Isaac Barton and the Rev. (Elder) William Reno, and
others met at the house of Jas. English (now Ed Burnett) on Big Pigeon river and constituted, as they expressed it, the Primitive
Baptist Society on Big Pigeon river...
From these old
records and from this church organization we are able to extract the names of the progenitors of very many of the leading and
influential families that now live in Cocke county. The following are the names of the original members that assisted in the organization
of the church: William Whitson, David Job, Abraham McKay, Elizabeth Whitson, Lezeanah Job, Rachel McKay, Mourning Prier,
Mourning Denton, Dorcas Job, Mary White and Nickless Woodfin.
A little after the days of the organization, owing to the hostile incursions of the Indians the members of the church, as well as other
inhabitants of the valleys of the Big Pigeon and French Broad rivers, were compelled to shut themselves up in the various forts
that had been erected in Cocke county and the church was for a time disbanded.
The forts referred to were as follows:
- William Whitson's fort situated on Big Pigeon river near the big spring on Campbell McNabb's
place below the Denton Mill...
- McKay's fort on French Broad river....
- Huff's fort on French Broad ....
- Wood's fort situated on French Broad river...
The inhabitants, or rather the women and children, remained housed in these forts from January, 1788 to September, 1788,
and then until February, 1789, and for a period of nearly ten years, there were constant raids and depredations, horses stolen
and men, women, and children massacred by the Indians.
The settlements were protected by the bravery and valor of the members
of the Primitive Baptist church, namely: Col. William Lillard, Lieut. Col. Abraham McKay, Maj. Peter Fine, Capt. William Job,
Capt. John Fine and Capt. John McNabb.
Between the date of the organization of the church and 1800 there was added to the church rolls the following distinguished names:
John Netherton, Daniel Hall, Ruben Padgett, Joshua Kelley, John Breeden, Thos. Mantooth, Daniel Rice, William Fox,
Ezekiel Campbell, William Coleman, Joseph Huff, Richard Wood, Thos. Dillon, Thos. Clevenger, George Roberts,
William Calfee, Martin Sisk and his wife, Mary Sisk, Reuben Allen and George Allen.
....In the year 1794 this
church society selected a place to erect a meeting house, which was on the north bank of the Big Pigeon river on the land of
Thos. Dillon and in the angle of the road leading up said river and from said road to John Hale's house...
This meeting house was completed on the 1st of October, 1794; it was built of large hewed logs,
securely notched down. ...
It is a well attested
historical fact that the attendants at this place of worship, and all other churches at that date, carried with them their trusty rifles
and deposited them within easy reach until religious services were over.
Abraham McKay was the clerk of this church from its
organization until the year 1823 when he was succeeded by his son, Jeremiah McKay, and the latter holding the position until
1845, when he was succeeded by Toliver Sisk, who filled the position until his death in 1880.
The deacons of said church were
Peter Fine, William Lillard, William Coleman, Ezekiel Campbell, Joseph Huff, John Huff, and probably others.
of the church were Jonathan Mulkey, William Reno [Reneau], Thos. Hill, John Huff, and Thos. Smith...